By Kim Robson:
One of the first issues early animal rights activists championed was the callous slaughter of countless animals to make fur coats and other products. We all remember images of people’s coats sprayed or splashed with “blood” – red paint. As the popularity of genuine fur has declined in recent decades, the demand for faux fur has increased. However, manufacturers have been caught meeting this demand for cruelty free products by mislabeling real fur as “faux.”
Mislabeling an inexpensive real fur as a more valuable fur is nothing new. For instance, rabbit fur might be passed off as mink. However, mislabeling real fur as faux is a somewhat new tactic. It might seem counterintuitive, but imported real fur can be cheaper to produce than convincing faux fur.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) issued a consumer warning recently. They informed animal lovers that Kohl’s retailers were selling Nicole Lee Fabiola handbags with “faux-fur” trimming that HSUS investigators found was actually made with real rabbit fur. “Consumers should be aware that animal fur is still being sold as ‘faux’ by major retailers,” said Pierre Grzybowski, research and enforcement manager for HSUS’s Fur-Free Campaign, in a news release.
Passing off real animal fur as fake or faux is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act that carries a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per violation. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed The Truth In Fur Labeling Act into law, closing a loophole that previously had allowed fur-trimmed garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur was $150 or less. The new law also requires that all genuine fur garments be labeled with the type of animal and the country in which the animal was killed.
Back in 2008, the HSUS discovered several faux fur coats sold in stores were actually made with fur from the raccoon dog, a canid native to East Asia. The HSUS sued the retailer (Neiman Marcus), who paid a $25,000 penalty in 2010.
In addition to Neiman Marcus, other retailers including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Saks Incorporated, and Lord & Taylor were found to be selling real fur mislabeled as faux fur. Settlement agreements were reached after the HSUS filed a lawsuit for false advertising. As late as this past March, Neiman Marcus (again!), DrJays.com, and RevolveClothing.com all settled federal claims that they had marketed raccoon, rabbit and even mink fur as faux.
In 2013, HSUS investigators documented the sale of domestic dog fur in multiple pieces of apparel at a New York retailer called Century 21, which led to action by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Sales associates were clueless about labeling requirements and not helpful in any case.
Additional U.S. laws prohibit the import or sale of dog and cat fur, but many designers choose to blindly outsource their manufacturing to countries such as China, where fur is cheap and there are no animal welfare laws in place. China is the largest fur exporter in the world and raises several species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats, for the fur industry.
According to the HSUS, more than 75 million animals are killed annually worldwide to make fur products. These include rabbits, raccoon dogs, mink, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, and domestic dogs and cats.
How can you be sure if a fur product in a store is real or faux? Don’t trust the labels or the sales staff. Read the HSUS’s guide for how to tell real fur from fake fur, and you can investigate for yourself.